ICE agents using fingerprints from drunken driving arrests have swept up 141 illegal immigrants in New England the past few weeks, including a Kenyan national living in Lowell with pending rape, robbery and strangulation charges.
Others netted in “Operation: Secure Streets” included a Honduran living in South Boston accused of selling cocaine and a Ukrainian caught in Cambridge with two previous drunken driving convictions, immigration officials said. All 141 — 104 nabbed Massachusetts alone — are now being deported.
A total of 1,191 illegal immigrants were caught nationwide in the OUI sweep — meaning Massachusetts accounts for one in 12 of the arrests.
“These people were being overlooked,” said Todd Michael Lyons, the deputy field director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston. “Driving under the influence is a dangerous threat regardless of what country the offender is from. It’s even more disturbing crime when it’s committed by someone who has no legal right to be in this country.”
Lyons said ICE used fingerprints run through the FBI’s crime database following drunken driving arrests all over the region. Immigration agents then went to last know addresses to track down the suspects.
It was a similar approach used last year in Operation Law and Order, when 50 illegal immigrants suspected of being drug dealers were caught in raids in East Boston, Dorchester, Lawrence, the Worcester area, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut.
This time, ICE agents scrubbed OUI cases from all over New England after police and courts released the suspects.
Lyons said some of those arrested were given lesser charges — including reckless driving and not having a valid license — before being allowed to walk out of district courts.
“We saw a large number of people with charges dropped down. It’s frustrating,” Lyons told the Herald, saying he believes judges and prosecutors may be trying to help illegal immigrants avoid deportation. “It’s happening New England-wide.”
Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and former Court Officer Wesley MacGregor were charged in federal court in Boston with allowing an illegal immigrant to escape out a basement door in the courthouse last spring. Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Middlesex DA Marian Ryan have also filed a federal lawsuit to keep ICE officers out of state courts.
Others arrested in the latest ICE OUI sweep include a 43-year-old El Salvador native living in Malden who had been deported once already and was accused of aiding a prisoner to escape along with other counts for forgery and aggravated assault on a police officer, according to ICE.
Another being deported was a 33-year-old Guatamalan living in New Bedford, wanted for resisting an officer and aggravated assault.
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